Friday 4 February 2022

BRAPA in ..... NEED(WOOD) - More Laffs from Staffs (Part 1/2 : Outer Burton)


'Donate just £1 and disadvantaged pub tickers like Simon will be able to afford enough green Stabilo highlighters to keep them ticking for an entire year'. 

I was back in Burton on (upon?  above?) Trent, scene of a particularly drunken escapade back in 2018.  The other wordly Coopers Tavern particularly freaked me out (see above) and by the time I got to the Devonshire, I couldn't drink more than a quarter of my pint.  Unfinished business I was determined to rectify today.

At 10:55am, as I swigged off the last of my hot chocolate in the heart of Burton's biggest indoor shopping centre, Storm Mallik Wilks battering the town centre, I stepped through the magic beer bottle (as I have to do every time I'm in Burton) and boarded a bus towards Lichfield.

The fan heaters were ramped up to 11, and I felt quite sick.  A 50 (FIFTY) minute bus ride too, so I had to remove a few layers to stop myself from overheating, or worse, puking sweet hot chocolate out of my nose.

I jumped off the bus in a desolate estates of new builds, located a long pavementless side road, then down some steps onto the path to the canal which would lead me towards pub one.

Very pleasant, and in time honoured British tradition, pedestrians, most of which were dog walking, all wished me a cheery 'good morning duck'.  And you know, if you passed the same people on a high street in a town centre, they'd not widdle on you if you were on fire!  The vagaries of society eh?

The pub soon came into view, across the water, and being called the Swan, I was delighted to see a swan or two swimming in front of it, giving my photo extra swannyness.  Although being in the West Mids/Staffs, if they were male swans, they are cobs, so bread rolls?  

Breadrolls in front of the Breadroll

Canalside pubs, as a general rule, are quite shit.  Airy fairy, dining hell holes with poor quality beer, and the kind of passing tourist trade which leads to disinterested staff and consequently, a disjointed atmosphere which makes a pub lover like me glad that 25-27.5 minutes isn't very long to spend here.  Swan, Alrewas (Fradley Junction, surely?) (2024 / 3587) was therefore a delightful surprise.  The time of year of my visit may have helped, and I wouldn't say it was without tourist elements "can I park overnight in your carpark?", "anyone got a lighter or a tent peg?", "cooor, is Orgreave near here?", amongst stuff I overheard. It was incredibly unfussy in most ways though, if anything I felt it went a bit too far this way!  My Everard's Tiger didn't taste great, but being my third Tiger themed beer sighting of the week, I had to have it.  My table, with snakes & ladders board on it, a bit sticky.  And a triumphantly northern smell of stewed veg coming from the kitchen to my right, you know the type that has been boiled to within 1% of any nutritional content.   I'm not selling it at all am I?  And yet, I really liked it as a homely unpretentious place.  Even though, when I thought the barmaid was coming over to ask about Colin, she shoves a mini blackboard in front of him, totally side-lining the poor Cauli.  On it, was written "Reserved for Michele 15:00".  Whether this was a Frenchman or a misspelled Michelle, I guess we'll never know.  Horrid smell on the way to the gents, coming from I think, an ice cream freezer.  Dead body?  Good joke in the gents - why couldn't the toilet paper cross the road?  He got stuck in a crack".  Time to leave, I HAD enjoyed this pub.  Honest. 

(I'm now actually doubting whether I liked the pub as much as I thought I did!  Blogging, don't do it, makes you overthink things).

I had considered walking ten minutes extra to the afore mentioned Orgreave, to make the bus journey back towards Burton that bit shorter.

But it started raining so I decided to stick with the Fradley stop I got off at.  And I'm glad I did.

If I hadn't, I wouldn't have seen this delightful little squirrel called Len within touching distance of me.  He looks at me, then looks at what he's eating, then looks at me again, as if weighing up how much of a threat I am.  Obviously I didn't look threatening enough cos he decides to carry on eating and pretend I'm not there.

Fine!  Be like that!  Anyways, I was early for my bus, the rain had stopped, sun was out, and having had zero phone reception in the Swan, now was time perch on the canal bridge to check my Twitter and reply to a couple of comments.

I'm vaguely aware of this professional looking cyclist hurtling down the road.  "Corr, Simon, is that you again?" it says.  And I cannot believe it, it is Six Towns Mart!  Bumping into him randomly in my hour of need just outside Hanley a few weeks back was weird enough, but at least he lives that way.  Here he was, biking in a random rural area.  And here was me.  Paused in same rural random area, still Staffs, but miles from Stoke, and now we bump into each other again.  Some interesting fate at work here!

We have a quick chat before getting on our respective ways, and I'm comfortably at the stop for the bus back up towards Burton.

I am pleased that I can break the journey for another GBG tick.  On the immediate outskirts of a village called Barton-under-Needwood.

I hop off, but think I've only got 25 minutes til the next bus for 3 hrs, it's gonna have to be a very quick pint.  I practically run into the pub ......

Now, I don't want you to think I'm a beer snob, but when I see places are Marston's, I think 'ugh, gonna be a dull pint and probably a pretty antiseptic pub experience'.  That has been the trend over the years, though occasionally bucked.  For example, in Dobcross many years ago I went to a beauty called the Swan Inn (Top House). Royal Oak, Barton-under-Needwood (2025 / 3588) tops even that, I may be so bold as to call it my favourite Marston's pub ever.  But let's forget the M word, it is just a delightful boozer.  I walk into the sunny tile floored main bar, huge group of middle agers all laughing n joking.  Sadly, they are midway through ordering a round, so I'm forced to wait, and I think my impatience is visible as the superb staff (kind of down in a hole so they are looking up at you) assure me it won't be long.  I prod a 'cob', he offers me a cheese n onion, but I take a ham n tomato.  I remember what state I got into last time I came to Burton, so sustenance is key.  I sat 'twixt fire and bar, a French bulldog looking longingly at my snack.  I'm aware there's a lovely carpetted back lounge bar, but I'm happy where I am, and start necking my perfect Pedigree (not a beer I always enjoy) at a rate, thinking time is of the essence!  Until I realise I'd been looking at the bus the other way, and I actually have a full hour.  Idiot!  I now have to slow myself down, and eating my cob allows me to slow my drinking speed to almost zero.  Nice to able to relax in such a nice pub.  I walk the wrong way to the loo.  Of course, it is the kind of pub where actually everyone takes the piss out of me.  In fact, so much piss has been taken, I barely need to go anymore!  Once in, I'm wedged in by a bloke who wants to know what has brought me here.  Back at my table, I pull out the GBG for the highlighting.  Quick as a flash, guv'nor comes over.  "That is your book I take it?" he asks.  'Errm yeah, I'm hardly going to go around highlighting random GBG's that don't belong to me, it ain't an addiction you know. Well not to that level!'  I think.  Though I guess that guy in Sidcup grabbed my GBG and started highlighting his fave micros in SE London, so anything's possible.  The guv'nor chats to me for the duration after that.  What a guy!  Some people are just perfect for the role of pub landlord.  Common themes involve visiting women nicking stuff out of the loos, and whether I'm a bit of a saddo going on these solo travels.  My hour here is up frightening quickly, so with a hearty goodbye to all, I leave, beaming smile, pub of the day!  

The bus arrives in a timely manner.  Next stop Burton!  See you on Sunday for part two tales of that, a late opener and an overnight stop.

Thanks for reading, Si 

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